United States District Court, C.D. California
TRACI J. PRIEST
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Present Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER JUDGE
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt.[ 43 ],
filed on May 13, 2019)
12, 2016, plaintiff Traci J. Priest (“Priest”)
filed this action against defendant United States of America
(the “United States”). Dkt. 1. On February 9,
2018, plaintiff filed the operative Second Amended Complaint.
Dkt. 23 (“SAC”).Plaintiff asserts claims for
negligence stemming from personal injuries that she allegedly
suffered when she disembarked from a bus parked in the
parking lot of the Grassy Hollow Park and Visitor Center.
See generally id.
filed the instant motion for summary judgment on May 13,
2019, along with supporting declarations and a statement of
uncontroverted facts. Dkt. 43 (“Mot.”); dkt. 43-3
(“SUF”). Plaintiff filed an opposition brief on
June 24, 2019, along with a statement of disputed and
undisputed facts and evidentiary objections. Dkt. 49-2
(“Opp'n”); dkt. 49-3 (“SDF”).
Defendant filed a reply on July 1, 2019. Dkt. 50
Court held a hearing on July 15, 2019. Counsel for plaintiff
failed to appear. Having carefully considered the
parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as
following facts are not meaningfully disputed and are set
forth for purposes of background. Unless otherwise noted, the
Court references only facts that are uncontroverted and as to
which evidentiary objections have been overruled.
Hollow is a visitor center in the Angeles National Forest,
located west of the town of Wrightwood, California, which is
owned by defendant. SUF ¶ 1. Volunteers from the
community offer a program for local schools at the Grassy
Hollow Visitor Center (the “School Program”).
Id. ¶ 2. The program has been in existence
since 1999, and students who come to Grassy Hollow to
participate in the School Program participate in three
educational nature activities: a nature hike, a
“Hug-a-Tree” presentation, and a discussion on
local animal life. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4. After
completing all three activities, students generally picnic in
a designated area. Id. ¶ 9. The School Program
is not advertised, and neither the School Program coordinator
nor any of the other volunteers invite specific districts,
schools, teachers, or individuals to participate in the
program. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Instead, schools
sign up to participate in the program by contacting a
volunteer who is designated as the School Program
coordinator. Id. ¶ 10. There is no fee to
participate in the School Program, nor is there a fee to
enter the Angeles National Forest or the Grassy Hollow
Visitor Center when participating in the School Program.
Id. ¶¶ 13-14. School Program participants
generally arrive at Grassy Hollow by bus. Id. ¶
7, 2013, plaintiff fell into a small hole-estimated to be
about two to three inches in diameter-as she disembarked from
the bus while serving as a chaperone for the Morgan Kincaid
Preparatory School's trip to Grassy Hollow as part of the
School Program. Id. ¶¶ 18, 23; SDF ¶
101; Dkt. 49-1, Ex. 1, Deposition of Traci Priest I
(“Priest Depo. I”) at 32:07-32:23. Plaintiff
learned about the trip through a flyer provided by the
school. SUF ¶ 19. Plaintiff knew the School Program
involved hiking, nature study, and picnicking. Id.
¶ 20. She did not pay a fee to enter the Angeles
National Forest or the Visitor Center. Id. ¶
arrived at Grassy Hollow by bus. Id. ¶ 22.
Plaintiff contends, and defendant does not dispute, that the
bus was late in arriving at Grassy Hollow, and when the bus
arrived, the volunteers told the bus driver to park along the
road and to hurry up. SDF ¶ 100. Plaintiff was the last
person to disembark from the bus, and when she stepped off
the bus, she stepped into a small hole in the dirt and fell
down. SUF ¶¶ 23-24. She reports that she did not
observe the ground below her before exiting the bus, and no
one who disembarked from the bus before plaintiff stepped in
a hole or said anything to plaintiff about a hole.
Id. ¶¶ 25-26. In her complaint, plaintiff
alleges that she sustained “serious injuries” to
her foot and ankle when she fell, see SAC ¶ 14,
but there is no information in the evidentiary record
currently before the Court on the nature or extent of
Dailey, a volunteer who has worked at Grassy Hollow since
2000, could not testify that regular inspections of the
parking spaces and dirt at such spaces took place.
Id. ¶ 111; Dkt. 43-1, Declaration of Linda
Dailey (“Dailey Decl.”) ¶ 1. Instead, she
testified that volunteers “always eyeball” decks
and sidewalks in areas like that. SDF ¶ 111. She further
testified that the volunteers were supposed to ensure that,
when students and chaperones step off the bus, they step onto
asphalt, but the volunteers greeting the busses were not
required to warn those disembarking from the busses to watch
their step. Id. ¶¶ 105, 110. Plaintiff
asserts, and defendant does not appear to contest, that
eighty percent of the parking spot where her bus parked
abutted dirt. Id. ¶ 106.
testified that, during her time volunteering at Grassy
Hollow, she has never noticed nor been alerted to holes or
other potentially hazardous conditions in the parking area.
SUF ¶ 16. To date, there are no records of School
Program participants suffering a fall when they exited the
bus. Id. ¶ 17.